The other day I was reminiscing on the lessons I learned from my yoga training, specifically the philosophy aspects. I was trying to remember the eight limbs of yoga, and I could count up to seven but there was one I was missing.
Later, I was reading a book on yoga by David Frawley, and one of the chapters was on pratyahara, which he called “the forgotten limb.” Pratyahara is all about going inwards and turning away from the senses in preparation for meditation, and Frawley explained it as the bridge between the physical limbs of yoga like asana and the internal practices.
I’m no meditation expert, but as I read these words I instantly felt calmer. I remembered that in order to feel true happiness, we must go inside ourselves, into our inner world, where the harsh stimuli of the world can’t reach us.
Happiness comes from within, not from external circumstances or material things. This is something we must learn again and again because the external world is always there, tempting us and dangling shiny objects in front of us.
It’s ironic that I had forgotten pratyahara as one of the limbs because it’s arguably one of the most important aspects of yoga. Before we try to solve anything at all in our lives, the journey inwards is essential because it’s where we go for intuition, inspiration, ideas and answers.
To practice pratyahara, here are three of my ideas for going inwards and visiting your inner self:
1. Close the eyes and sit in silence. It might be intimidating at first, but once you start to quiet some of the external noise and travel inside your mind, you’ll find that your problems aren’t as real as they seem. Savasana is my favourite part of every yoga class because it gives me a chance to lie back and enter my inner world, drowning out everything else in the process. Act as your own inner witness, watching the thoughts and emotions float by like you’re underwater watching the waves churn above you.
2. Take a walk in nature. When it’s warm enough, walking or running outdoors is one of my favourite ways to check in with my inner self and create some space between me and the world. I find I always feel better after some exercise, and doing it outdoors is that much more effective in terms of getting centered and grounded.
3. Visualize. When you close your eyes, you can create whatever world you desire in your mind. I find this idea so freeing and beautiful; we can go anywhere, do anything, or be anything we want if we just go inwards. Take some time before you fall asleep at night to visualize your future, a gorgeous natural setting, or a feeling you’d like to conjure inside. It can be so freeing to let your mind wander and consider all the possibilities the universe has to offer.
How do you like to access your inner world? Let me know in the comments!